Dedicated ship supply company Sea Services looks after international, ocean going vessels, supplying the products required to keep them operational, including food and beverages, charts and navigation equipment, spare parts, appliances, crew welfare items, cooking chemicals, cleaning and operations, and safety equipment.
Customers include cargo vessels, fleet vessel managers and operators, cruise liners and the occasional super yacht. Cargo vessels are serviced 24/7 year-round, with Sea Services servicing these clients in Northport, (Whangarei), Auckland and Tauranga. But the company is also called upon when customers visit Taranaki (New Plymouth), Gisborne and Napier. Cruise liners visit from spring to autumn and Sea Services arranges supplies for them in major NZ ports, and as far afield as Papeete, Rarotonga and Noumea.
Sea Services can trace its origins back to the 1970s when two young men became involved in the ship supply industry after leaving high school. Tony Pak, now Sea Services’ managing director, was employed by Weddel Meat Processors in their ship supply operation, while founder Brian Hewitt began his career with Gillman and Watson, also supplying vessels.
Back in the 1970s, most vessels visiting NZ were bulk carriers, refrigerated vessels and cargo ships. Containerised transportation was in its infancy. Railway lines ran along Quay Street as far as Princes Wharf and constantly in use. Most vessels called into port for days as loading/unloading operations took time.
Brian says “In 1977, when I started Sea Services, Columbus New Zealand, Columbus America and Columbus Australia were the biggest container ships to visit. At 1200 TEU, today they would barely be considered adequate as coastal feeder vessels.” Very few cruise liners called back then and a visit from a liner was an occasion which would draw onlookers down to the port to catch a glimpse of an elite ocean-going ‘greyhound’.
“The average cargo vessel had 35 crewmen and would be in port for three to four days. Sea Services used to supply three or four ships a day. Back then, an oil tanker visiting the Marsden Point oil refinery would have 50 to 60 crewmen, including maintenance teams, and an order for 1,000 cases of beer was not out of the ordinary.
“In the 70s and 80s most ships did their maintenance on board, not in a dry dock like today. In 1977, Auckland still had two ships a week bringing in phosphate and sulphur for the fertilizer works. The pipeline from Marsden Point wasn’t built and Sea Services supplied smaller oil tankers, bringing product from off-shore and down the coast every week. “There was always a ship in port bringing in crates of CKD (completely knocked down) cars. Auckland was visited by a far wider variety of ships and many more of them than we see today.”
While Brian formed Sea Services, Tony took his employer, Weddel Ship Stores, up on the opportunity to purchase the ship servicing division and McCallum Trading was born. There was plenty of business to go around.
Freight containerisation, equipment advances and computerisation have made freight movement more efficient. Vessels visiting NZ are now much larger and require, on average, only 22 crewmen to operate. Today a container ship will be in and out of Fergusson terminal in 12 hours or less. In the mid-1980s the volume of business in the industry shrank, resulting in fewer ship supply companies. In 2002 McCallum Trading acquired Sea Services and both business operations combined under Sea Services (2002) Ltd.
Today, Sea Services is the largest dedicated ship supply company in NZ, with a committed team of 22 including fully qualified Officer of the Watch, professional chef and a combined shipping experience more than 150 year. Deliveries are made to vessels around the clock from a warehouse in Penrose and investment in state of the art equipment and facilities ensures they meet customers’ needs, including purpose built freezer and chiller units, computerised ordering systems, substantial warehousing and stock on hand, and a fleet of delivery vehicles.
Being based in Auckland, NZ’s busiest port, linked to Tauranga, the second largest port, has given the company opportunity to grow to its current size. And with a third of the population, Auckland offers the widest range of products, at the most competitive prices, so taking stores is cost effective and convenient for customers.
Whether supplying a cargo vessel or a cruise ship, it’s all about service. On every ship coming into New Zealand, the crew is a multi-national team, nothing is NZ standard and they rely on Sea Services to get all the equipment required for a ship to operate. Sourcing and logistical supply involves working around tight timeframes and jumping through hoops to meet customers’ needs to ‘make it happen’, operations supervisor Darrell Lines says.
Our reputation in the industry stands us in good stead,” he says. A team of trusted suppliers enable the company to provide the products required. “We deal with customs, bio security, stevedores, port operations, the ships themselves and we utilise our knowledge and expertise to ensure the products are delivered to the vessels at the scheduled time.
“We work 24-7, 365 days a year to service our customers’ needs,” Darrell says. “So the level of dedication of staff, suppliers and the company itself required to meet those needs is what has made the company such a success over the years and we expect to keep meeting those needs moving forward.”